Ten Things Throwback Thursday – Magic Kingdom Edition
With all the new and exciting changes coming to Walt Disney World, I could bet that some of us die hard Disney fans are feeling a little bit nostalgic for the “good old days” at the Happiest Place on Earth. I’ve rounded up a list of loved but lost attractions and experiences on this Throwback Thursday edition of Ten Things.
- The Skyway
When Magic Kingdom first opened, this was a popular form of transportation from one end of the park to another. The L shape track in the sky took guests in gondolas from Tomorrowland to Fantasyland and all it cost was a “D” coupon. Kudos if you know what I’m talking about. The skyway was also an attraction at Disneyland in California and in Tokyo. Magic Kingdom’s version closed in 1999, five years to the day after the Disneyland Skyway was shut down. If you are very observant, you can see some of the remaining architectural hints of the skyway still present at Magic Kingdom today.
- ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter
Meant to be one of the most terrifying rides ever imagineered at WDW, this 4D simulation was based on the Alien movies starring Sigourney Weaver. I vividly remember riding this as a child and immediately being panicked, so if that was the goal, Disney did it right. Not for the faint of heart, this experience held you captive in a circular room as an Alien escaped and roamed the audience, often spitting on you and slithering near your feet. It was an all-around immersive experience as you felt the Alien breathe on you or come near you thanks to the special effects built into your seat. As the Alien movies lost its audience, so did the demand for this attraction and it closed permanently in 2003, later to be replaced by a new attraction called Stitch’s Great Escape.
- Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride
I never got to experience this ride, but I was told it was awesome. The ride itself was two different rides in one. There was a left track and a right track and depending on where you decided to ride was what kind of experience you got. Meant to be a dark ride, this original attraction from the opening of WDW, stayed true to the art of the ride featured in its counterpart in Disneyland, but it was not slow or quiet. Guests on the ride would often find their jalopy accelerating and then stopping right before it appeared they would crash into a barrier, or even another jalopy on a separate track. The ride closed in 1998 and sparked in park protests from fans. Although the ride itself was replaced by a family friendly Winnie the Pooh attraction, you can still find nods to Mr. Toad around the park.
- Mickey’s Toontown Fair
One of the smallest “lands” to be imagineered, Mickey’s Toontown Fair was the place to go to meet Classic Disney characters. The land debuted in 1996 and closed officially in 2011. The area featured, Pixie Hollow, Toontown Hall of Fame, Donald’s Boat, and Mickey and Minnie’s Country Homes. Mickey’s place was a bright yellow and Minnie’s was painted in her signature pink and lavender. Guests could walk through both homes and take pictures inside where the Mouse himself would lay his head to sleep, or where Minnie got all dolled up for dates with Mickey. It really was an adorable and colorful area for all who enjoy the classic Disney characters. I was sad to see it go.
- Snow White’s Scary Adventures
I was even more upset when Snow White’s Scary Adventures was axed from WDW. All the “scary” thrill rides were being replaced by milder experiences, and I was losing faith in Magic Kingdom’s ability to keep my attention, thank GhostHost for the Haunted Mansion, but I digress. This incredibly dark and creepy ride was also one of the original attractions from when WDW first opened, and it was far scarier than its Disneyland counterpart. The Florida version of the ride gave more facetime with the Evil Queen in witch form, and very little of Snow White her loyal seven dwarfs. If you were a fan of the villains this ride was perfect for you. Unfortunately, in 2012 the ride was closed, but Imagineers recycled the figures of Doc, Sleepy, Bashful, Happy and Grumpy from the original ride and used them in the cottage scene for the replacement attraction known as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. There are also so audio-animatronic vultures from the original ride that flew the coop over to Mine Train, and you can see them perched above the first lift when you ride.
- 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
A Disney fan favorite this attraction was meant to recreate some of the scenes from the Disney movie. The attraction was set in a beautiful lagoon where guests could take boats which were made to look like submarines that essentially sat below water level. Each person on the ride was a guest on the Nautilus and would be privy to the experience of riding in the submarine complete with a personal porthole that included a defogger, although friends who rode the ride said it never really worked properly. Despite its massive popularity, the ride permanently closed in 1994, as the upkeep was expensive, and the load times were too slow to keep up with the growing crowds.
- Plaza Swan Boats
Probably one of my favorite nostalgic rides, I wasn’t alive to see it myself, but the pictures always fascinated me. The Plaza Swan Boats were a marvel ahead of their own time, this relaxing ride was powered on natural gas and had a water jet system that allowed the boat to steer itself in any direction. The Swan Boats were only in operation during peak summer seasons, and offered often unseen views of Cinderella’s Castle and other attractions that were along the original waterways. The attraction closed in 1983, but their history lives on in beautiful photos and fan art.
- Cheap Mickey Premium Bars
Enough said. The price of a Mickey Premium Bar has skyrocketed to $5. Unacceptable Disney, literally not cool.
- Discovery Island
Before Animal Kingdom was built at WDW, there was a wonderful little island where guests could visit to mingle with giant tortoises and other wild avian creatures. Discovery Island was and is still located off of Bay Lake, although it is no longer open to guests. The Island was used as an animal sanctuary and eventually became a zoo for guests to partake in environmental conservation efforts. If you wanted to visit you would need to purchase a separate ticket. There is much speculation as to why Discovery Island was really closed, and why it won’t be reopened ever again. Some credit the closure to an amoeba that was found at our final throwback location.
- River Country
The vision of River Country was to be an old fashioned swimming hole, which was open seasonally for guests to enjoy. The water park was built up to try and avoid any water from the surrounding Bay Lake area contaminating the swimming areas, but even with the state of the art filtration systems made to pump clean water out, a deadly bacteria was found at the park that resulted in the death of a child. River Country originally opened to guests in 1976 and closed in late 2001 as per seasonal routine. It never reopened due to a drop in attendance from guests to the park after the terrorist attacks in September, and has sat decaying for over 15 years. Tragically everything that once existed is now covered in moss, vines, weeds, and water. Last year Disney announced they would trek to River Country to drain and fill one of the remaining pools with cement. Prior to this decision, photos circulated around the internet from activist Seph Lawless who found his way onto the abandoned property to photograph the decay in a series he calls Dismaland. This has renewed fan interest in the property, and some are calling for Disney to clean it up and make River Country a nature reserve or walkway.
It does appear that some of the nostalgia of these old attractions may be coming back with rumblings of a skyway and waterway system in the works to connect all 4 parks. Only time will tell what new and innovative changes come to the parks, but for now we can all look forward to the confirmed changes coming such as Pandora and the Star Wars expansion of Hollywood Studios.
Check out Erika’s shop on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/imagineering.emporium/
Skyway photo from Big Florida Country!
- Will Galaxy’s Edge be available during Extra Magic Hours? - May 23, 2019
- Three Limited Disney Rewards for Summer - May 16, 2019
- Walking in Walt’s Footsteps - May 9, 2019